People pose near a decoration on the New Years eve at a shopping mall in Mumbai on December 31, 2020. (Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP) (Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images)

Delhi leads India clampdown on New Year events

New Delhi and other major cities across India on Thursday (31) ordered curfews for New Year’s Eve as they stepped up efforts to head off a new coronavirus wave.

In the capital, the curfew would run for two days from 11:00 pm until 6:00 am with gatherings limited to five people even before the shutdown, authorities said.

Normally, tens of thousands of revellers pack central Delhi to see in the New Year.

But with frantic efforts being made to track thousands of people who have recently returned from Britain because of the new coronavirus strain, the city of 20 million people joined a growing number of Indian states that have imposed draconian restrictions on New Year gatherings.

The financial capital Mumbai and other major cities in Maharashtra state have ordered a night-time shutdown until January 5.

Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, which both generally draw large numbers of foreign tourists for end-of-year holidays, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka have all ordered curfews for New Year.

India has officially recorded more than 10 million coronavirus infections, the world’s second-highest caseload behind the United States.

But with 150,000 fatalities for a population of 1.3 billion, the death rate is one of the world’s lowest and the number of new infections has slowed dramatically in recent weeks.

The appearance of the new strain of coronavirus has worried authorities, however.

At least 25 cases of the variant — which potentially spreads faster according to experts — have been found among people who have returned from Britain.

A major operation has been launched to find thousands of people who arrived from Britain before flights were suspended on December 23.

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